With college tuition increasing every year, the demand for scholarships, financial aid, and student loans is higher than ever. However, what so many students don’t know is that schools with the highest tuition can often be the most affordable. Take Stanford for instance; the school is famous for having an amazing financial aid package, but with an acceptance rate lower than 5%, we can’t all go there. No fear! We found some schools, including Stanford, for whom pricy can mean affordable. Here are our top picks.

1. Princeton will fully fund all of the costs to attend (tuition, fees, room and board) for families with an annual income under $65,000. On average, Princeton reports awarding over $53,000 to members of their Class of 2022, leaving a cost of $13,600 for families. Each of the other Ivy League schools - Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, and Yale - offer similar aid packages based upon families’ demonstrated needs.

2. MIT also uses “need-blind” admissions, meaning they don’t consider your family income during their admissions process. This is important for college-bound students to understand; never shy from applying to a school because of tuition! Even though MIT costs over $70,000 per year, 72% of its students graduate debt-free, and families earning under $90,000 a year pay absolutely nothing.

3. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Opportunity Vanderbilt is the university’s commitment to providing no-loan financial aid with no financial cutoffs or thresholds. Students with financial need are provided grants and scholarships to cover their cost of attendance through Vanderbilt’s extensive fundraising and donor support.

4. Franklin & Marshall is a small, historic college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Called a model “that more colleges need to follow” by PBS’ TheNewsHour, F&M’s student recruitment strategy has diversified the student body across race and social class by awarding $56 million in financial aid each year. Some of that could help you!

5. Part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, Pomona College serves around 1700 students just outside of Los Angeles. Like other need-blind schools, the vast majority of Pomona’s students receive grants and scholarships to attend. Student loans are not a part of Pomona’s aid package, but are an option to help cover immediate financial needs. The average cost of attending Pomona after aid is only $15,000.

6. University of Virginia provides need-based aid to eligible students and several merit-based opportunities for others seeking to apply. Merit awards are based on a student’s success or experiences - not on financial need or income level. Students are encouraged to apply for both need-based and merit awards, if applicable. At UVA and most other schools, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step for determining need-based assistance.

7. Students at Bowdoin in Maine can “just focus on being a student.” Bowdoin provides grants up to the full cost of attendance, and also bundles student employment grants into their packages. When students work in research labs or offices on campus, they are able to build their resumes, manage their time, and learn how to be a team leader, all while earning additional money for school.

8. Last but certainly not least is Stanford. If any of the 1700 new students on campus each year have an annual family income of $125,000 or less, they get a free ride. Families earning $65,000 or less a year also have their room and board covered. For other students with not as much need, Stanford bundles federal and institutional awards to reduce debt, often making Stanford more affordable than colleges with lower tuition costs.

These schools are just some of the many that are working aggressively to make college less of a financial burden. Note that at many universities, financial aid programs apply only to U.S. citizens. Other schools have made strides to support undocumented students, and some have also extended their financial aid benefits to international students. However, be sure to read through everything closely when you do your research.  

These schools are also difficult to get into – and the competition gets tougher every year. Your best shot being accepted to a highly selective, need-blind college is to stand out. Do well in high school, join organizations and leadership activities that you enjoy, and work hard.

If you’re looking for other ways to pay for your education, scholarships are your best bet. It’s free money and we’ve already found them for you on Scholly.

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